Jollibee: This is one of the most popular fast food chains in the Philippines. They are like the Filipino equivalent to McDonald’s in the U.S., but instead of a big statue of Ronald McDonald, you’ll see a big statue of a big red ‘jolly’ Bee. My favorite thing to order here is spaghetti. I also like the chicken with rice, ice cream sundaes, and ice crazes (crushed ice with ice cream). Their hamburgers taste different than American hamburgers – the meat and cheese have a little bit of a different taste and they put loads of sauce on them. I personally wasn’t a huge fan, but I know some other American missionaries who loved them. I also liked to order lumpia there, although it tastes very fast food-ish compared to real lumpia. I personally didn’t especially like their palabok. I recommend trying real homemade palabok rather than deciding whether or not you like it just based on the fast food version.
I love Mang Inasal. They are famous for their yummy grilled chicken and pork. My favorite thing to order was their grilled chicken on a kabob stick with rice. They have an “unlimited rice” option for several of their value meal, where a worker will come around with a bucket of rice and refill your plate as many times as you want. Their rice comes all wrapped up in a banana leaf, which is pretty cool. They make the best halu-halos. I also really like their Sinigang and their Bangus. I wasn’t a huge fan of Sisig.
Chowking is another one of my favorites places to eat in the Philippines. They serve Chinese food, Filipino-ized. My favorite thing to order was their Asado Siopao, with extra Asado sauce to dip it in (most restaurants have a whole bottle you can take to your table so you can help yourself). I’d often get that with a bowl of beef chow fan and a couple sides, such as siomai, lumpia, or buchi (you can even order a sunny-side-up egg as a side even though it’s not on the menu). Their Lauriat meals are also very yummy and they make good Halu-halos.
Similar to KFC in the U.S. but with rice. If I remember correctly, I think you could also get a few American sides such as mashed potatoes. No biscuits though. I usually ordered something different every time because it seems like they always had something new to try, like noodle dishes and twisters/pizza sticks.
McDonald’s! Filipinos call it “McDo.” I think this is pretty much the only place you can get a truly American-tasting hamburger. It’s just as good as, maybe even better than, the McDonald’s in America. The one in Urdaneta city even serves curly fries and delivers!
Pizza Hut, Greenwich, and Shakey’s are all popular pizza restaurants in the Philippines. They serve very yummy cheesy pizza, lasagna, and pasta – very similar to what you’d find in the U.S, but maybe a little yummier.
It makes me smile that Goldilocks is a popular restaurant in a country where no one has ‘goldi’ locks. This is a good place to go to try out some different native Filipino dishes, like Caldereta, Kari-kari, Dinuguan, etc. I personally like their fresh lumpia (it’s kind of like a crepe). They also usually have a bakery with cakes, muffins, pastries, etc.
I’ve never actually eaten at the Red Ribbon restaurant, but I know they are famous for their yummy cakes, which we’d occasionally pick up when there was a birthday.
*Often you can find some great authentic Filipino food at food courts in the malls, local restaurants or on the street. You just have to be careful to make sure you trust the place and that it’s safe for foreigners.
*You’ll have a hard time finding Mexican restaurants in the Philippines. I never saw one on my mission but I hear there are a few here and there.
*I remember when I first got to the Philippines, being really nervous because I didn’t know how to order food in Tagalog. But I soon found out that it wasn’t a big deal. Most cashiers know English and will understand either language if you aren’t sure how to say everything in the language. You can also seek help from your companion. A common way to start your order is to say, “Puede po” (roughly means, may I have) and then say what you’d like.
*An interesting thing to be aware of if you are ordering in Tagalog is that sometimes the cashier will use a very proper pronoun when addressing the customer, literally meaning “they.” I remember it confused me the first time a cashier asked me in Tagalog, “And what would they like to drink?” This way of speaking isn’t used in everyday conversation. The plural form of “you” (kayo) is normally used to show respect, but the pronoun “they” is a notch higher in respect, used only in very formal settings.
*When I first arrived in the Philippines, I remember being hesitant to order water at restaurants because I didn’t know if it was safe to drink. But this actually wasn’t a concern. You can rest assured that if you go to an established chain restaurant, they usually serve filtered water. It’s only in smaller restaurants out on the streets, or in people’s homes where you need to be careful.
*The customer service in the Philippines, even at fast food restaurants, is excellent. I think the U.S. could take a few lessons here.
(Contributed by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011)
Do you see a restaurant in the Philippines that I forgot to include? Send us your name and a little write-up about it and we’ll include it on this list! Also, if you have any helpful information to add, let us know.